By John Bombatch
XENIA — A year after finishing with the team’s best record, ever, and coming within a game of the league championship series, the Xenia Scouts have quite literally hit the ground running in preparation for the 2016 season.
“We met three of the players at the ball park last night. We hadn’t seen them before. We met them at the game,” laughed returning manager Bubba Cates. “We had one guy (Aaron Vallance) drive 16 hours to meet us for our exhibition game (Tuesday at Prasco Park down in Mason). He pulled into the parking lot at 6:30 p.m., and the game started at 7, and he was in the lineup because we didn’t have anyone else who could play.”
Some players are still with their respective college programs and playing in postseason tournament games. One is Wright State’s Adrian Marquez who is down in Louisville with the rest of the Raiders this week, playing in the NCAA Regional baseball tournament. So for the time being at least, Cates’ playing roster is lower than normal.
Xenia has an 1860’s-style exhibition baseball game against the Eastwood Iron Horses set for 7:05 p.m. Friday, June 3 at the Athletes In Action Sports Complex’s Grady’s Field. Cates will gain a few more bodies for that game.
The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League season officially gets under way for Xenia on Saturday when the Scouts will host the Southern Ohio Copperheads for a two-game home series. The two GLSCL foes have a 7:05 p.m. contest on Saturday, then they’ll return to Grady’s Field on Sunday for a 4:05 p.m. game.
Xenia finished with an all-time best 26-18 overall record in 2015. The team set records for wins, individual batting average, runs batted in, runs scored, home runs, stolen bases, walks, pitching wins, pitching saves, earned run average, innings pitched and strikeouts.
This season’s first six games, including the exhibition with Eastwood, will all be played at home. It’s the team’s longest home stand of the season. They have two 7:05 p.m. games scheduled with league newcomer Richmond, Ind. on Tuesday and Wednesday, then they’ll host Cincinnati at 7:05 p.m. Thursday.
Xenia then embarks on its longest road trip of the season June 10-15 with games in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Celina.
While more players may be added to the roster in the next few days (some might still be driving), the current 2016 Scouts hail from Tennessee (three players), Ohio (4), Michigan (3), California and Georgia (two each), as well as Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas and the Dominican Republic. Cates just hopes he can provide some baseball lessons that can help further their careers.
“It’s exciting because you can share experiences with each other. It’s my job to impart a little wisdom. … We’re trying to have a fun summer, a good summer where we’re playing for a championship. But one of our ultimate goals is to make sure they’re taking what they learned here back to their college teams, because we’d like to make a difference there too.”
PITCHING SMARTER: The GLSCL will be implementing the Pitch Smart initiative set forth by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball this season. Pitch Smart is a series of guidelines for coaches, players, and parents to reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries in pitchers.
The Pitch Smart guidelines suggest pitch counts for athletes between the ages of 19 and 22. They include a maximum of: 120 pitches per start, 30 pitches on no days’ rest, 45 pitches on one day’s rest, 60 pitches on two days’ rest, and 75 pitches on three days’ rest.
All GLSCL organizations and coaches will be expected to adhere to the Pitch Smart guidelines with penalties and suspensions in place for violators.
THROWBACK FRIDAY: The Scouts baseball team will step back in time a couple centuries or so to play baseball as it was played in the 1860s, at 7:05 p.m. Friday night at Grady’s Field. Xenia will host the Vintage Base Ball League team known as the Eastwood Iron Horses for a traditional baseball game as it was played back in the olden days.
No gloves. Balls caught on a bounce are considered outs. Writers have to file their stories by telegraph. (Just kidding on that one.)
“It used to be that the batter could tell the pitcher where he wanted the ball thrown, so we’ll have to see whether we can do that,” Cates said. “(Eastwood) will know what they’re doing. We’ll just be filling in a little bit and giving them some practice. … We’ll have to get a feel for it. It might be 6-7 innings before we figure out what’s going on.”
EASTWOOD LOCALS: According to team spokesman Earl “Fireman” McDaniel, the Eastwood Iron Horses have at least eight players from the Greene County area. One of those will be Joel “Jeremiah Jr.” Hendrix who is expected to serve as umpire for Friday night’s game.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.